What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid that develop inside or on the surface of the ovary.

Many women experience ovarian cysts without even knowing it since the cysts are relatively harmless, small, and go away on their own within a few months.

In severe cases, cysts can enlarge and painfully twist your ovaries, decreasing or stopping blood flow. Cysts can also rupture and cause internal bleeding.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

A large ovarian cyst can cause symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling or bloating
  • Mild to moderate pelvic pain in the lower abdomen

An ovarian cyst is more likely to cause pain if it:

  • Becomes large
  • Bleeds
  • Breaks open
  • Interferes with blood supply to the ovary
  • Is bumped during sexual intercourse
  • Is twisted or causes twisting (torsion) of the ovary

Are there different types of ovarian cysts?

There are several different types of ovarian cysts.

Follicular Cysts

Follicles are cyst-like structures that your ovaries grow every month. The follicles produce the progesterone and estrogen hormones and release an egg during ovulation. A follicular cyst occurs when the ovary follicle can’t release an egg. Instead, it grows into a cyst. Follicular cysts are usually larger and can be painful.

Corpus Luteum Cysts

A corpus luteum cyst is the result of abnormalities and changes in the ovary follicle. The changes occur after the egg has been released, and cause fluid to build inside the follicle, leading to a cyst.

Dermoid Cysts

Dermoid cysts are not related to your menstrual cycle. They form from embryonic cells and can contain tissue, such as hair, teeth, or skin.

How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?

Your doctor may find an ovarian cyst during a pelvic exam or when you have an ultrasound test for another reason.

If you have a suspected ovarian cyst, your doctor may order a pelvic ultrasound, a specific blood test, a laparoscopy or other methods to confirm the diagnosis.

Other imaging tests that may be done when needed include:

  • CT scan
  • Doppler flow studies
  • MRI

Another ultrasound may be ordered for you in 6 to 8 weeks to make sure the ovarian cyst is gone. If not, there are treatment options available.

What are the treatments for ovarian cysts?

Treatments for ovarian cysts depend on their size, placement, cause, and severity. Treatment options may include the following:

  • Careful monitoring: Cysts can clear up on their own in many mild cases.
  • Medication: Hormonal contraceptives help to prevent future cysts but do not decrease the size of current cysts.
  • Surgery: Some complex ovarian cysts do not go away on their own or are increasing in size and need to be surgically removed. They are removable without removing the ovary.

What are the risk factors for ovarian cysts?

Risk factors for ovarian cysts include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic infection
  • History of ovarian cysts
  • Hormonal problems and imbalances

This information is provided for informational educational purposes only, and should not be considered as individual medical advice. Please discuss your specific situation with your medical provider.

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